How Many Days a Week Should You Run?
It is an often asked question, “How many days a week should I run?” The answer is dependent upon many factors. What are your goals? What kind of condition are you in? How long have you been running? Is your focus running for speed, running for distance, weight loss, or cross-training?
It sounds like a simple question, but the answer is complicated. Let’s work through it.
If you are a new runner, you want to start out slowly and easily so as not to burn yourself out. One of the most common problems new runners have is they start out too fast and try to do too much. This leads to frustration. It can also cause the runner to get sore and injured.
For this reason, it is a good idea for new runners to consider a running plan that has you running three or four days each week. If you aren’t doing any other type of workouts, this gives the body ample time to recover in-between run days.
Running Added to Other Fitness Regiment
For people who already have a fitness regime and decide to add running, you need to ask yourself what your goals are. Why are you starting to run? Maybe you embarked on some lifestyle changes that had you weight lifting and some cardio on machines like the elliptical and stair stepper. If you have been working out regularly and decide to add running, you need to assess your reason and goals.
If a workout buddy said to you, “Hey, that 5K sounds fun. Maybe we should sign up?” The next question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to switch to running while you train or do you wish to continue with the activities you already have.
For someone who takes classes a couple of days each week and likes to also weight train, running three days each week is probably plenty to get yourself in running shape for a casual 5K. If you have loftier goals, you may wish to run more than that.
Sabrina Svoboda was a distance runner in junior and senior high. Stationed with the United States Marine Corps in Japan, Svoboda runs at least two miles every day and continues to race when her military obligations allow.
Dropping Time Off the Clock
Once you are bitten by the running bug, you may decide it’s time to work on a PR or personal record. To do that, most runners create a running workout plan that has some focus on speed. Depending on the distance you plan to race, that will help you decide how many days each week to run.
If you ran your first 5K on running three days each week in addition to other types of workouts, you might wish to change your running to include a day or two more of training. Those workouts may be more focused.
For example, many runners plan their week around some simple but tried and true patterns. Each week consisting of five runs might have one long run, one day of focused speedwork, one tempo run, and two days when you just head out to get some miles in.
If you’re a novice runner, it is worth mentioning that a good GPS watch is helpful for tracking miles and pace.
As a runner increases the distance he or she plans to race or run, it often occurs that many of the training runs naturally get longer. While training for a half marathon, for example, you don’t necessarily need to run more days each week, but you do need to log more miles.
You might think that you need to go from 3 or 4 days running each week to 6 or 7 to adequately prepare for a distance race, but that simply is not true. Many people train for and run quality races on 4 or 5 days of running each week. The importance is more on the quality of miles than the quantity, in some ways.
That is not to imply that you can get lazy and skip workouts. Just that more is not always better.
Bitten By the Marathon Bug?
Most novice marathon training plans have you running at least five days each week, with at least one day of pure rest and recovery. Can you train for a marathon on less? Certainly. However, most experts would discourage it.
There is a school of thought called “train less run faster” or “less is more” where people run as little as three days a week, and some people have success with this program. It goes to show that running is not one size fits all.
Running for Weight Loss
For people who take up running for weight loss, I would encourage you to mix up your workouts as much as possible. Often people see distance runners on television and assume if they take up distance running, the pounds will simply melt off.
Truthfully, most people see the greatest weight loss success through a variety of types of workouts, including HIIT training and some weight training.
The simple fact is that you cannot outrun or outwork what you put on your plate. Making smart food choices is far more important than anything you can accomplish in the gym.
A sample week for someone taking up running for weight loss might have you taking a spin class one night, running three days, weight lifting two times, and doing some other type of cardio class that involves high-intensity interval training.
Some of these workouts can be on the same day to ensure the athlete gets at least one full day of complete rest each day.
So How Many Days Should I Run?
If you feel like I have not actually answered your question directly, it is because I haven’t. There is no clear cut answer. To determine how many days each week you should run, you need to ask yourself some questions.
Once you have decided what your goals are, how much time you have to devote to working out and what sacrifices you are willing to make, it becomes easier to embark on a fitness regiment that truly fits your needs.
The most simple fact that remains is the more carefully you assess the situation, determine your goals, and create a plan, the better your chance for success.